The latest assessments from the Clemson Agricultural Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate crop loss will be roughly $125 million across eight South Carolina counties most severely affected by Hurricane Florence.
“We are estimating that the total crop impact on crops and livestock, facilities and otherwise is going to be $125 million,” Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said. The numbers were included in a letter sent by Gov. Henry McMaster to the state’s congressional delegation which estimated a total $1.2 billion impact on the state from the storm.
He noted that would be twice the economic impact of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and a little more than one-third the losses from the 2015 floods.
Weathers said the loss of greatest concern is cotton.
“The bolls of cotton plants are opening up,” he said. “When I was there Tuesday, literally, cotton lint had blown from the cotton stalk to the ground and that that had not been blown to the ground was barely hanging on… by a thread. Based on conversations with farmers and talking to Clemson Extension, we think that the cotton crop has suffered a 75 percent loss in the eight counties that seem to be the impact zone.”
Those eight counties are Georgetown, Horry, Marion, Dillon, Florence, Marlboro, Chesterfield and Williamsburg. The region is responsible for a majority of row production crops in the state.
Weathers toured the region most impacted by Florence on Tuesday, both by foot and helicopter. He also talked with about 45 farmers at Bazley Farm in Marion County. He said he was encouraged the farmers did not express the same despair they had after the 2015 flood.
“Compared to three years ago the farmers are just looking to say, ‘Okay. We’ve got this challenge. Let’s deal with it,” Weathers said. “We’re going to push to have agriculture as part of the relief package. We think the political environment is a little better for that to happen this year.”
Despite a dry season prior to the storm, Weathers said farmers managed to make some efforts ahead of time to minimize damage. Some were able to clear drainage ditches.
“We prepare for them as best we can,” he said.
The commissioner also met with President Trump and FEMA officials on Wednesday.
“Given how severe the situation is, I’m encouraged by the teamwork that’s going on,” he said.
Farmers are encouraged to complete Clemson’s online damage assessment form to aid officials in determining the full impact of the hurricane. The form is available online here.